BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) – Tourism has bounced back from the pandemic but the infrastructure to support the visitor industry has not. Many visitors say it’s nearly impossible to find hotels in the Burlington area that don’t break the bank.
“There were no other hotels near the area to book,” said Eliza Varadi, a visitor from South Carolina who is here for a work conference. But when her Burlington hotel had an A/C problem, they relocated her to Shelburne. “They moved us to a different hotel way far from the conference, so we actually had to Uber every day to the conference, which was also a problem because of the availability of Ubers and how hard it was to find them.”
Varadi is not alone, data from the state of Vermont says that in June, hotels in the greater Burlington area were 86% full. That number was just 74% in June 2021.
Prices are up as well, but those numbers are harder to pin down because of the pandemic. According to the state, hotel room prices across Vermont are 31% more expensive this year than last. But last year, hotels were still offering lots of COVID discounts.
Joe Larkin, a hotel developer who owns the Homewood Suites in South Burlington, acknowledges prices are up this summer and says there are many reasons. “It can be because supply is gone and been repurposed for other uses. It can be because we had staffing issues and supply issues and that sort of limited the number of functional hotels in operation. And ultimately, demand returned probably faster than we were ready for and expecting as an industry,” Larkin said.
And now that we’re in the hole, Larkin says it will take a while to rebuild our hotel stock. He has several projects in the works in South Burlington including renovating the Holiday Inn, which will have 100 rooms. He’s also building a 105-room Hampton Inn and a 100-room Residence Inn, in addition to other rental developments.
Another developer is working on bringing a 118-room Fairfield Suites to the Burlington International Airport. Airport Director Nick Longo says this will be key for people to stay the night before a flight. “This is going to be much more accessible to those folks to get here early and to just take a breath and not worry about traveling so early in the morning,” he said.
Those out and about in Burlington Friday said that while it might be expensive here, it’s something they expect in this area of the country. “We booked in March, so three, four months ago. It wasn’t really hard. We weren’t looking to stay right in the heart of the city. So, we thought the prices were a little high but everywhere we booked for this ten-day trip was a lot higher than we were used to,” said Leslie Allen from Denver.
“It was so expensive, so we had to double up and gather money together so we were able to get a hotel here,” said Nehemie Myrthil from Boston.
Larkin the developer also noted that with more hotels comes the need for reliable, affordable housing for the hotel workers to live in. He says building that housing, along with hotels, should be a top priority.
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